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Home / Latest News / Summer in February: How a Welsh love story was turned into the romance film of the summer

Summer in February: How a Welsh love story was turned into the romance film of the summer

The story of friendship, love and scandal has been turned into a £5m film starring Dominic Cooper and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens.

Now the grandson of a freeman of Cardiff has described the “emotional” experience of watching his ancestor’s part in an Edwardian love triangle on the big screen.

Gilbert Evans was born in Cardiff and served in the Boer War before going on to live in a Cornwall colony of artists called the Lamorna Group.

It was there, before the First World War, gentlemanly Gilbert befriended flamboyant artist Sir Alfred Munnings and that both men fell in love with beguiling 21-year-old student Florence Carter Wood.

Their story has now been turned into the film Summer in February starring Stevens as Gilbert, Cooper as Munnings and Emily Browning as Florence.

Gilbert’s feelings towards Florence, nicknamed Blote, only became apparent after the discovery of a diary in an attic by his son, David, years after his death.

And his grandson, Treve, said it was “strange” to see the story he first became aware of in the 1990s now on the big screen.

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He said: “There was some awareness that something had possibly gone on earlier because Gilbert was 22 years older than my grandmother who he eventually married and he was very involved with the artists who had gone down to Lamorna.

“I remember my grandfather so it’s quite strange to see someone you know portrayed on the big screen.

“It was quite emotional. It was a fantastic experience for our family.”

After the discovery of the diary the story was originally turned into a novel, also called Summer in February, written by Jonathan Smith.

It was so called because of a diary entry from February 1914, in which Gilbert recorded: “Had early lunch with Blote in my room and then for a walk over the cliffs to Penberth where he had tea.

“Then back by road in the evening. A summer day to be remembered.”

His son had remarked a Summer day in February must have meant he was in love.

But it was artist Munnings, 10 years older than her, that Florence originally courted in 1909.

She inspired Munnings’ first attempt to portray a sophisticated woman on horseback, called The Morning Ride, and the pair married on January 19, 1912.

But on their honeymoon Florence attempted suicide by taking cyanide and, back in Cornwall, Munnings lived a bachelor lifestyle.

Florence relied on the support of the sociable group, including non-painter Gilbert, a 26-year-old captain in the Monmouth Royal Engineers Militia.

“Gilbert was very much part of the great social scene,” Treve said.

“Obviously he was not as flamboyant as Alfred Munnings.

“He was a reliable friend to have and was a gentlemanly type of fellow who everybody got to know and who was highly respected.

“He was liked to such an extent that when he left in 1914 to go to Nigeria someone wrote a letter to his mother to say how much they were going to miss him and they wished he wasn’t going.”

Gilbert’s call from his battalion to Nigeria, where he was later Deputy General Surveyor General, led to new entries including one from April 25, which said: “She saw me off at Paddington. We parted at 3.15. I went to the train alone and very sad.”

Three months after they parted on July 24, 1914, Florence again took cyanide which, this time, proved fatal.

After her inquest Munnings is said to have told a friend their marriage was never consummated.

Treve said that despite their love rivalry Munnings and Gilbert had remained friends.

“The picture of The Morning Ride was left to him by Munnings,” Treve said.

“Obviously despite what had happened, Munnings knew Gilbert was very emotionally attached to Florence.”

Gilbert died at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Penzance on January 6, 1966, aged 83.

The painting left to him was sold in 2003 but his diary remains in the family and Treve added they were hoping to create a website on Gilbert.

Treve and his family got the chance to see the film with members of the cast at a special charity screening in Mayfair a month ago.

It came after a decade of trying to get it to the big screen and, long before his stint in ITV period drama Downton, Stevens had wanted to play Welshman Gilbert.

Treve said: “Dan and Dominic were really as interested to meet up with us as we were them because this would never have come about if it weren’t for the Evans family.”

Summer in February is being shown at the Chapter Arts Centre, Market Road, Cardiff, until Thursday.

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